In 2016, at a session co-organized with corporate leaders on LGBTI issues at Davos, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out that achieving further progress – especially in countries where neither the government nor the public opinion is receptive to calls for change – would require broader coalitions including the private sector: “If we are to achieve faster global progress towards equality for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex people, businesses will not only have to meet their human rights responsibilities, they must become active agents of change.”
His office, together with the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and corporate and civil society partners developed global guidance for businesses. The guidance co-authored by Fabrice Houdart, United Nations Human rights Officer, referred to as the UN Global LGBTI Standards for Business, builds on the UN Global Compact and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. On September 26, 2017, in New York at Microsoft’s Times Square offices, the HC unveiled the standards for business to tackle discrimination against LGBTI people which Fabrice has since launched in more than 16 locations globally (New York, Mumbai, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Washington DC, Geneva, Melbourne , Nairobi, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Pretoria, Madrid, Belgrade and Milan).
To date 260 of the World’s largest companies have expressed support for the Standards, they constitute the largest corporate social responsibility initiative on LGBTI issues. The Standards have been translated in six languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Korean, Japanese and Serbian. In Italy, the Standards have received the support of Barilla, UniCredit, Gucci, Eataly and Safilo.
The five standards are:
• KNOW AND SHOW RESPECT for human rights.
• ELIMINATE discrimination.
• PROVIDE support.
• PREVENT other human rights violations
• ACT in the public sphere.
The first four standards call for companies to have anti-discrimination policies in place, exercise due diligence and establish effective grievance mechanisms. They also urge companies to equalise staff benefits and sensitise managers, and to take steps to eliminate discrimination against LGBTI customers, suppliers and distributors – and to require the same of their business partners.
Perhaps most ambitiously, the fifth standard “Act in the public sphere” challenges companies to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people in the countries where they do business – including through dialogue and advocacy, support for local community organisations, and, in some cases, civil disobedience. Fabrice Houdart is working closely with Out Leadership, the global LGBT+ business network CEOs and multinational companies, to spell out concrete ways these companies can become a motor for change globally.
Yet the Standards remain realistic in what companies can and should do. The language is suggestive rather than prescriptive, recognizing that every situation is different, and that a company’s actions will inevitably be shaped in part by the context in which it operates. This does not mean companies should make no effort; rather, they should assess the local situation and context, and implement their policies without harming their employees, and use their influence and leverage with the government to work patiently towards bringing about change. One of the most salient aspect of these standards is that they encourage companies to “find their voice” on human rights of LGBTI people acknowledging that companies cannot fulfil all five standards in all markets all the time.
The team developed a three-pronged strategy to raise awareness on the Standards:
- Holding a series of launch events in various parts of the world;
- Building partnerships with other organizations in that space including UN agencies/working groups, LGBTI civil society organizations and other Human Rights organizations;
- Asking recognized corporate names/brands to “express support” for the Standards.
While OHCHR did not ask companies to sign off on the Standards as it did not believe companies can fulfil all standards in all markets they operate in, it asked companies to lend their name to raise awareness on the Standards by “expressing support” and therefore indicating that they are on a journey to respect and promote human rights of LGBTI people. Having a critical mass of companies would send a strong signal to companies which have not started their journey to “find their voice” on human rights of LGBTI people but also contribute to raise awareness for the Standards globally.
As of June 2019, 260 companies have done so: The companies that expressed support are 180hb, 3M, ABN Amro, The Adecco Group, Accenture, Accor Hotels Group, Adidas, Aetna, AirBNB, Airbus, Air Canada, Amadeus, Amalgamated Bank, American Airlines, Allianz GI, Anglo-American, ANZ, Aon plc, A.P. Moller – Maersk, Argos, Atos, A.T. Kearney, AT&T, Avianca, Aviva, Avon, AXA, Baker McKenzie, Banca Comunicacao, Banco do Brasil, Barclays, Barilla, Bayer, BASF, BCLP (Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner), Becton Dickinson and Company, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), BDMG – Banco de Desenvolvimento de Minas Gerais, Ben & Jerry, Best Buy, Biogen, Bloomberg L.P., BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon, Booking, Braskem, Brewin Dolphin, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Burberry, Café Brisa Serena, Calvin Klein, The Carlyle Group, Carta, Cervejaria Ambev, Cisco Systems Inc., Clifford Chance LLP, Cobasi, ClubMed, The Coca-Cola Company, Credit Suisse, Daimler, De Beers, Deloitte, Demarest Advogados, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Deutsche Telekom, Diageo, Dili Ashtanga Yoga, Dilicious, Dow Chemicals, DWF, Eataly, Ebay, EDF, Erste Bank, EY, Exelon, Facebook, Fidelity International, Firmenich, Fotos Publicas, Foozoo Travel Sri Lanka, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Fujitsu, Generation Investment, The Gap, GlaxoSmithKline, GLG, Godrej Industries, Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, Google, Granite Solutions Group, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Grupo Sa Engenharia, Gucci, Habitat, H&M, Hemofarm, Henry Schein, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, Here Technologies, Hermes Investment Management, Hilton, Hogan Lovells LLP, HP, Hyatt, IFF, IGH, IKEA Group, Inditex, Infosys, ING, Intel, Ipsos, Itau Unibanco, JLL, Johnson & Johnson, JWT, Kellogg, Kenneth Cole Production, Kerring, KPMG, The Lalit Hotels, Lee/Brock/Camargo Advogados (LBCA), Levi Strauss & Co, Linklaters, Lloyd’s of London, Lloyds Banking Group, L’Oreal, Lufthansa, Lululemon, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, LVMH, Louis Dreyfus Company, Manpower Group, Maria Farinha Filmes, Marks & Spencer, Marsh, MAS Holdings, Marriott International, Marui group, Mastercard, Mattos Filhos, Mazars, Metro AG, Microsoft, McCann, McKinsey, MCV Advogados, Merck Group, Molson Coors, Monsanto, Moom, Nasdaq, Natura, Nestle, Netflix, New York Life, Nielsen, Nike, Nokia, Nomura, Novartis, Oath, Panda Criativo, Ogilvy, Oliver Wyman, Omnicom, One Magical Week-End, Orange, Orkla, Ørsted A/S, OutLoud Strategies, The Palladium Group, Paul Weiss, Paramount, Paypal, PepsiCo, Pfizer, PIMCO, Pinheiro Neto, Pinsent Masons LLP, Pixelasia Productions Dili, The Phluid Project, Ponto Link, Procter & Gamble, Publicis, PVH, PWC, Ralph Lauren Corp, RELX Group, RBS, Robert Bosch GmBH, Royal Caribbean, Royal Dutch Shell,Safilo Group S.p.A., Salesforce, Sainsbury’s, Sanofi, Santana, Santander Group, SAP, Scotiabank, Siemens, Simmons & Simmons, Schneider Electric SE, Scotiabank, Slack, Smirnoff, SNC-Lavalin, Société Générale, Sodexo, Sonders and Beach Group, Spotify, [SS*X BBOX], Stanley Black & Decker, Suit Supply, Swiss RE, Syngenta, Telefonica, Telenor, Teleperformance Philippines, Tesco, Teva, The North Face, Thomson Reuters, Thyssen Krupp, Timor-Leste Coral Triangle Heritage Alliance, Tommy Hilfiger, Trench/Rossi e Watanabe Advogados, Trillium Asset Management, Twitter, Uber, UBS, Um.a, Under Armour, UniCredit, Unilever, UPS, Vector, Veirano Advogados, Veolia, Vert Asset Management, VF Corporation, Viacom, Virgin, Visa, Vodafone, Westpac, Williams-Sonoma Inc, Xerox, Zara and Zurich.
PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN DIVERCITY IV, SEPTEMBER 2019